How Slut Shaming Becomes Victim Blaming

This is a video by Chescaleigh whom I posted about earlier. The video is kind of old now, but still so relevant (especially in the wake of the Steubenville case) and she does an amazing job of explaining, unfortunately from personal experience, how blaming victims of rape is so common and why it needs to stop.

The Egregious, Awful and Downright Wrong Reactions to the Steubenville Rape Trial Verdict

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By Doug Barry

If you followed the Steubenville rape trial through to its conclusion yesterday morning when Judge Thomas Lipps handed down “deliquent” verdicts to high school football players Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond for raping a 16-year-old girl after a party last August, you probably subjected yourself to some pretty graphic trial testimony, as well as the needling worry that justice, even after all the visual evidence and testimony the news-gathering public has been bombarded with over the last few months, might not be done. How many times have we seen the justice system, the media, or just casually callous observers with too much access to social media shame a sexual assault victim for brining about her or his own ruin? So many, in fact, that this website has an entire tag devoted to victim-blaming.

Anyone who thought we might trudge through another high-profile sexual assault case involving student athletes without suffering through a barrage of victim blaming from ignorant rape apologists or conservative conspiracy theorists is clearly a delusional optimist. Athletics occupy a special nook in the American psyche — our athletes have achieved a godlike status in pop culture, and our athletic diversions have become sacred. That’s why the legislative branch of our government seems to only overcome its partisan differences when it’s trying to investigate whether or not people cheated in the hit-the-ball-with-the-stick game. Or whether football is too dangerous, as if it’s somehow news that repeated blows to the head are bad for you.

It’s also why some people can take to Twitter and spout geysers of shit from the tips of their typing fingers. There’s waaaaay more victim-blaming on Twitter, more than you can probably stomach in a single sitting. There seems to be no limit for the amount sympathy some people can muster for Mays and Richmond, and, conversely, no limit to the amount of callousness they can muster in dismissing, discrediting, or flat-out blaming the 16-year-old girl, the only — and we really shouldn’t have to say this — real victim in this rape trial.

Sports worship is also big reason why, in the case of the Steubenville saga, certain media outlets (ahem, CNN) have pushed a sympathetic narrative about Mays and Richmond, the two “deliquent” (that’s the juvenile court equivalent of “guilty”) teenagers who also happened to be stand-out athletes on a well-regarded high school football team. The banter between Candy Crowley and general correspondent Poppy Harlow after the trial ended Sunday, in which they cluck-clucked over these “two young men [who] had such promising young futures” — and who, they added, were “very good students” — shocked a lot of people, many of who rightly wondered whether CNN, so sensitive to the wrecked football careers of Mays and Richmond, had reserved any sympathy for the 16-year-old rape victim.

CNN wasn’t alone in trying to drum up sympathy for the fallen football stars. Good Morning America‘s extensive pre-trial coverage last Tuesday hammered out pretty much every angle, but concluded with an emphasis on the shattered football futures of the two guilty teenagers:

When the trial commences Wednesday, there will be no jury involved. Instead, a juvenile judge will decide the fates of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, who face incarceration in a detention center until their 21st birthdays and the almost-certain demise of their dreams of playing football.

Then again, another pre-trial article from ABC focused on Richmond’s state of mind the night of the sexual assault for which he’ll now be serving time in juvenile detention. He was excited, the article explains, for the August doldrums to end and the football season to finally begin:

It’s no surprise that he was in a celebratory mood. But even Richmond admits that some of what happened at the parties he and several of his teammates attended that night crossed the line.

“Crossed the line” is certainly one way (a shitty way) of putting it. Another way is to say that he and teammate Trent Mays raped, filmed, and mocked a 16-year-old girl who was too intoxicated to even consider consenting to any of the sexual acts her unconscious body was subjected to that night.

Images of Mays and Richmond crying in the courtroom and quotes of them lamenting their sentences are part of the Steubenville story. News outlets are obligated to report things like Richmond collapsing into the arms of his attorney when the guilty verdict came down, sobbing, “My life is over. No one is going to want me now.” That reaction shouldn’t surprise anyone (Richmond is 16-years-old), though it might make it a little harder for some observers to outright despise him. People want a monster when heinous crimes are committed, but part of what makes even the most violent criminals so insidious is that they’re not monsters at all — they’re people, sometimes people we might have, in other circumstances, held a door open for.

What’s so distressing, though, about the way major news outlets like CNN or ABC wring the sympathy out of the Steubenville story is that they’re tapping into America’s collective yearning for its worshipped athletes to be pure, to be somehow incapable of committing a crime like rape. That’s obviously not true, but there always seems to be a reluctance (or flat-out unwillingness) for some people to believe that athletes could sully the sports we venerate. When an athlete commits a heinous crime or, God-for-fucking-bid, cheats, the collective outrage is palpable — a lot of people who’ve invested a lot of time and emotional devotion into sports feel betrayed, and that betrayal can make people lash out at the offender (like with Lance Armstrong), or even defend the offender at all costs.

CNN and ABC know this. They know that American sports fans go batshit, tongue-lolling crazy when they see wall-length portraits of Michael Jordan putting an inflated rubber sphere through a 10-foot-tall hoop. They know that, against all evidence to the contrary, some people still want to believe that Mark McGwire really hit all those home runs that one, electrifying summer when his face was caricatured all over packets of Big League Chew. And they know that some people, steeped in reverence for America’s new pastime of watching hyper-muscled humans run into each other on a gridded field, will feel their heart strings plucked for the ruined football careers of two young men.

That, however, is not what the Steubenville story is ultimately about. It’s not about a rust-belt community suffering the woes of an enfeebled steel industry, and it’s not about how important it is for Steubenville to simply “get over” its ignominious moment in the national spotlight. It’s about a 16-year-old girl who was raped by two young men who thought that being good at throwing and catching an inflated ovoid meant that they had cultural carte blanche to behave however they wanted. Being good at a sport doesn’t entitle anyone to automatic public sympathy, and delving into our cultural sympathy reservoirs to bemoan the tragedy of a football player’s young career cut cruelly short does not make news coverage sensitive.

Maybe Richmond and Mays cried at their sentencing, fine. They should have cried. They should feel very fucking sorry for what they did, because it’s awful. We, however, should not feel sorry for them because a university will most likely not give them a scholarship to play a game. The sooner this country comes to terms with that fact, the more civilized and empathetic a place it will be.

[Source: Jezebel]

Two Teens Found Guilty in Steubenville Rape Case

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By Chelsea J. Carter, Poppy Harlow and Brian Vitagliano, CNN

Steubenville, Ohio (CNN) — Two Steubenville high school football players accused of raping an allegedly drunk 16-year-old girl were found guilty by an Ohio judge on Sunday.

Judge Thomas Lipps announced his decision after reviewing evidence presented over four days of testimony in the case against 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond, who were tried as juveniles.

Mays and Richmond were tried before Lipps, a visiting judge, without a jury. The trial moved quickly — and through the weekend — to accommodate the judge’s schedule.

Mays was also found guilty of disseminating a nude photo of a minor.

Mays was sentenced to a minimum of two years in a juvenile correctional facility. Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year, but like Mays could be in detention until he is 21.

The Department of Youth services will rule whether the two boys will be detained longer, Judge Lipps said, adding it will depend on their behavior and rehabilitation.

Mays and Richmond will be credited for the time they had served before the trial.

The ruling brings an end to a trial that has gained national attention for its lurid text messages, cell phone pictures and videos, and social media posts surrounding the sexual abuse of the girl.

Mays and Richmond were accused of raping the girl during a series of end-of-summer parties in August 2012.

According to prosecutors, Richmond and Mays each penetrated the victim’s vagina with their fingers, an act that constitutes rape under Ohio law if it is not consensual.

Attorneys for the two boys had said they were not guilty.

CNN’s policy is not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault. CNN is not naming the minors who have testified but is identifying Mays and Richmond, whose names have been used by court officials, their attorneys and in multiple media accounts.

At the heart of the case was the question of whether the victim was too drunk on the night of August 11 and the early morning of August 12 to understand what was happening to her and to consent.

Trial focuses on text messages

The victim testified Saturday that she remembered little about the night because she was drunk.

During closing statements on Saturday, attorneys for the two boys argued the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that their clients raped the girl, calling into question the victim’s credibility.

They also questioned whether an avalanche of cell pictures and videos and social media posts available in the days after the rape, as well as national media coverage ahead of the trial, tainted testimony.

But prosecutors told the judge there is no question the girl was “substantially impaired.”

“The things that made her an imperfect witness — that she doesn’t remember a lot — made her in every sense of the word a perfect victim,” prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said.

The girl testified Saturday that she remembered drinking at the first big party of the night and then holding Mays’ hand as she left with him, Richmond and others.

The next thing she remembers, she told the court, is waking up in the morning naked on a couch in an unfamiliar house. She covered herself with a blanket while she looked for her clothes. She testified she could not find her underwear, earrings or cell phone.

She testified she was “too embarrassed to ask what happened that night because I didn’t remember.”

The girl told the court she had a flashback memory of throwing up in a street somewhere sometime after she left the first party.

The victim was the 28th and final witness in a trial that has shone an unwelcome spotlight on Steubenville, a down-on-its-luck town along the Ohio River, and the Steubenville High School football team known locally as “Big Red.”

Critics have accused community leaders of trying to paper over rampant misconduct by players of the highly regarded “Big Red” football team and have suggested that other students took part in the assaults or failed to do enough to stop them.

The case has attracted the attention of bloggers and even the loosely organized hacking group Anonymous, who have questioned everything from the behavior of the football team to the integrity of the investigation.

But during closing arguments Saturday, Hemmeter cast aside the outside attention.

“This case isn’t about a YouTube video. This case isn’t about social media. This case isn’t about Big Red football,” she told the judge.

“This case is about a 16-year-old girl who was taken advantage of, toyed with and humiliated. And it’s time people who did this to her are held responsible.”

Teens treated girl ‘like a toy,’ prosecutor says

Earlier in the day, attorneys for Mays and Richmond challenged the credibility of the victim, calling two of the 16-year-old girl’s former best friends to testify.

One witness, a 17-year-old, testified the victim told her she believed she had been drugged the night of the assault, an allegation the witness said she did not believe because the girl “lies about things.”

A hospital test on the victim for drugging came back negative, testimony revealed.

The teen witnesses, who described themselves as classmates and former best friends of the girl, told the court they saw the victim drinking. She drank at least four shots of vodka, two beers and some of a slushy mixed with vodka, a 16-year-old witness said.

The defense attempted to question the two teens about the victim’s past history, but the judge did not allow most of the line of questioning. Ohio, like most states, has a rape shield law that limits the amount of information of an alleged victim’s past that can be explored in court.

The 17-year-old witness said she picked the victim up the next morning from someone’s home and asked her what happened.

In the car, the victim said, “We didn’t have sex, I swear. I don’t know what happened. I don’t remember,” the teen testified.

On Friday, three teens, all self-described friends of the co-defendants, testified that they saw Mays and Richmond engage in sexual contact with the girl. All three have been granted immunity from prosecution.

One of the witnesses — identified as a 17-year-old Steubenville football player and wrestler — testified that he used his cell phone to record Mays putting his fingers inside the girl’s vagina during a drive from one party to another. He said he deleted the video the next morning when he realized it was wrong.

The teen also testified that Mays later attempted to have the girl perform a sex act on him in the basement of a home.

“She didn’t really respond to it,” he said.

[Source: CNN]

Half the Sky – Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

I just learned about this amazing movement and organization called Half the Sky. It began as a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book tackles the issue of oppression of women and girls in developing countries. The message of the book is simple: when we help women, we are helping the world.

The book has also been turned into a 4-hour PBS series,

“the series introduces women and girls who are living under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable — and fighting bravely to change them. Their intimate, dramatic and immediate stories of struggle reflect viable and sustainable options for empowerment and offer an actionable blueprint for transformation.”

This serves as a huge reminder that gender equality worldwide is not just about women getting equal pay or defying gender roles – It’s about women and girls feeling empowered and being given opportunities in education. It’s about standing up to oppressive systems that promote objectification, sexualization and violence against women. it’s about women being treated as human beings.